Charter of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation


The foreign ministers of the seven founding Member States – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – signed the Declaration on South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in New Delhi on August 2, 1983. Following this, the SAARC was established on December 8, 1985, in Dhaka, by a signing of its Charter. The Association’s Secretariat was established in Kathmandu, Nepal, on January 17, 1987.

The signatories of the Charter were the heads of state of the seven founding member countries. These included Hussain Muhammad Ershad (Bangladesh), Jigme Singye Wangchuck (Bhutan), Rajiv Gandhi (India), (Maumoon Abdul Gayoon (Maldives), Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev (Nepal), Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (Pakistan), and Junius Richard Jayewardene (Sri Lanka).

Afghanistan – the eighth Member State – joined the Association during its 14th summit, on April 3, 2007.

In its Preamble, the Charter expresses the desire of the Member States to follow the principles laid out in the Charter of the United Nations. It also outlines the Association’s respect for “sovereign equality, territorial integrity, national independence, non-use of force and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.” Towards this aim of regional cooperation, the Charter lays out certain objectives, principles and institutional as well as financial arrangements. One of the primary objectives of the Association is to ensure the welfare of the citizens of the Member States. It also aims to improve collaboration in “economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific” areas.

This 9-page document consists of a Preamble followed by 10 Articles: Objectives (Article I); Principles (Article II); Meetings of the Heads of State or Government (Article III); Council of Ministers (Article IV); Standing Committee (Article V); Technical Committees (Article VI); Action Committees (Article VII); Secretariat (Article VIII); Financial Arrangements (Article IX); and General Provisions (Article X). The document also contains the Provisional Rules of Procedure for the Association.

The following are relevant excerpts from the Charter’s 10 articles:

Article I: The objectives of this Association shall be: a) to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to improve their quality of life; b) to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realise their full potentials; c) to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia;

Article II: Cooperation within the framework of the Association shall be based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of other Stares and mutual benefit.

Article III: The Heads of State or Government shall meet once a year or more often as and when considered necessary by the Member States.

Article IV: The Council of Ministers consisting of the Foreign Ministers of the Member States shall be established with the following functions: a) formulation of the policies of the Association; […] c) decision on new areas of cooperation

The Council of Ministers shall meet twice a year. Extraordinary session of the Council may be held by agreement among the Member States.

Article V: The Standing Committee comprising of Foreign Secretaries shall have the following functions: a) overall monitoring and coordination of programme of cooperation; b) approval of projects and programmes, and the modalities of their financing; […] d) mobilisation of regional and external resources;

Article VI: Technical Committees comprising representatives of Member States shall be responsible for the implementation, coordination and monitoring of the programmes in their respective areas of cooperation […]

The Chairmanship of the Technical Committees shall normally rotate among Member States in alphabetical order every two years.

Article VII: The Standing Committee may set up Action Committees comprising Member States concerned with implementation of projects involving more than two but not all Member States.

Article VIII: There shall be a Secretariat of the Association.

Article IX: The contribution of each Member State towards financing of the activities of the Association shall be voluntary […]

In case sufficient financial resources cannot be mobilised within the region for funding activities of the Association, external financing from appropriate sources may be mobilised with the approval of or by the Standing Committee.

Article X: Decisions at all levels shall be taken on the basis of unanimity.

Bilateral and contentious issues shall be excluded from the deliberations. 

Focus by Shaifali.


South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation


South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation


08 Dec, 1985